A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Some dining tips for those who have diabetes, a disease affecting 460,000 Kentuckians

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Food and festivities that are part of the holiday season can make it hard to eat healthy, especially if you are one of the almost 460,000 Kentuckians who have diabetes.

But it doesn’t have to be if you make a plan and stick to it, says the American Association of Diabetes Educators. To help make this plan, the association created a collection of “Holiday Season Eating Tips” with strategies to help people with diabetes enjoy the holiday season and maintain their blood sugar levels.

When it comes to eating big meals, the association’s tip-sheet suggests: not skipping meals; limiting the number of starchy foods on your plate; choosing fruits and vegetables served raw, grilled or steamed; and sticking to calorie-free drinks. And if you choose to drink alcohol, which can lower blood sugar and interact with diabetes medicines, limit the amount and drink it with food.

If you are the one preparing the food, make sure you include healthy food choices like fruits, vegetables and lean meat; avoid frying or adding extra fat during cooking; and avoid sampling the foods more than necessary while you are cooking.

Another way to control your portions is by using the “diabetes plate method,” and foregoing seconds, says an article on The Diabetes Council website that also offers tips on managing diabetes during the holidays.

This method involves filling up half of your 9-inch plate with non-starchy, low carbohydrate vegetables, one fourth of the plate with a lean meat or protein and the other fourth of your plate with a carbohydrate of your choice. This method also allows for two more carbohydrate servings, which could be milk, fruit or a higher carbohydrate dessert.

As for all of those readily available treats, the association’s tip-sheet recommends taking small portions, eating slowly and savoring every bite.

Holiday parties provide their own set of challenges when it comes to making healthy food choices, including the opportunity to graze, which can lead to poor food choices and overeating.

The tip sheet emphasizes the importance of not skipping meals, which can lead to overindulgence because you will arrive at the party hungry. It also recommends that you study all of the food options before deciding what to put on your plate, adding that if you choose something you don’t enjoy, don’t eat it.

And as always choose raw vegetables first, with only a small amount of dip (or skip it entirely); eat chips and crackers in moderation; sip on water or mineral water; and don’t hang out near the food table.

The association also reminds people with diabetes to check their blood sugar regularly throughout the holidays, possibly adding a few extra checks in on party days to help guide your choices.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers some additional tips for people with diabetes to “holiday proof” their meal plans.

One of them reminds people with diabetes to make sure they eat close to their usual mealtime to keep their blood sugar steady, and if the holiday meal is to be served later than normal, eat a small diabetes-friendly snack at their usual mealtime and eat a little less when the meal is served.

Others include cutting back on carbohydrates during the main meal to allow for a sweet treat; making sure you are sleeping seven to eight hours per night because sleep loss can make it harder to control your blood sugar and tends to make people eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar foods; finding ways to fit in your favorite holiday dishes; and to make sure you keep moving, even if your physical activity is broken up into smaller chunks to fit your busy schedule.

And if you need further help with your diabetes management, talk to your diabetes educator.

Kentucky Health News

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